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The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

Автором Lillian Faderman

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The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

Автором Lillian Faderman

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4.5/5 (6 оценки)
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1,253 pages
17 hours
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Издано:
Sep 8, 2015
ISBN:
9781451694130
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Pride…

An overview of gay and lesbian history from the 1950s until now, expertly and exhaustively cataloging major milestones and hurdles. Lambda Literary Award winner Lillian Faderman writes about decades worth of history with a novelist’s flair.

Описание

“This is the history of the gay and lesbian movement that we’ve been waiting for.” —The Washington Post

The sweeping story of the struggle for gay and lesbian rights—based on amazing interviews with politicians, military figures, and members of the entire LGBT community who face these challenges every day.

The fight for gay and lesbian civil rights—the years of outrageous injustice, the early battles, the heart-breaking defeats, and the victories beyond the dreams of the gay rights pioneers—is the most important civil rights issue of the present day. In “the most comprehensive history to date of America’s gay-rights movement” (The Economist), Lillian Faderman tells this unfinished story through the dramatic accounts of passionate struggles with sweep, depth, and feeling.

The Gay Revolution begins in the 1950s, when gays and lesbians were criminals, psychiatrists saw them as mentally ill, churches saw them as sinners, and society victimized them with hatred. Against this dark backdrop, a few brave people began to fight back, paving the way for the revolutionary changes of the 1960s and beyond. Faderman discusses the protests in the 1960s; the counter reaction of the 1970s and early eighties; the decimated but united community during the AIDS epidemic; and the current hurdles for the right to marriage equality.

“A compelling read of a little-known part of our nation’s history, and of individuals whose stories range from heart-wrenching to inspiring to enraging to motivational” (Chicago Tribune), The Gay Revolution paints a nuanced portrait of the LGBT civil rights movement. A defining account, this is the most complete and authoritative book of its kind.
Издатель:
Издано:
Sep 8, 2015
ISBN:
9781451694130
Формат:

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Lillian Faderman is an internationally known scholar of lesbian history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature. Among her many honors are six Lambda Literary Awards, two American Library Association Awards, and several lifetime achievement awards for scholarship. She is the author of The Gay Revolution and the New York Times Notable Books, Surpassing the Love of Men and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers.


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  • At one point, two policemen chased a huge crowd of gays down Waverly Place—until someone shouted, “Hey, there are only two cops! Let’s catch them and rip off their clothes and screw them!” The officers turned on their heels and ran back to their squad.

  • In December 1956, after five months of shock treatments and heavy medication, Duplaix was released to her parents, who again put her in psychoanalysis. She died in July 2012, at the age of seventy-six, still a lesbian.

  • The first literary use of gay appeared in Gertrude Stein’s short story “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene,” written in 1908, about the tumultuous lesbian relationship between two of her acquaintances, Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire.

  • Gay became an underground synonym for “homosexual” in the early twentieth century, encompassing men who were attracted to men, lesbians, people who’d later be called transgender, and bisexuals when they were acting homosexually.

  • Dr. Carleton Simon was an enlightened man. Though special deputy police commissioner for New York State since 1920, he opposed the death penalty, and he advocated the rehabilitation of criminals.

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The Gay Revolution - Lillian Faderman

Cover: The Gay Revolution, by Lillian Faderman

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The Gay Revolution, by Lillian Faderman, Simon & Schuster

CONTENTS

Prologue

A Brief History of Changing Terminology

PART 1: SCAPEGOATS

1. Lawbreakers and Loonies

2. America Hunts for Witches

3. No Army of Lovers: Toward a Homosexual-Free Military

4. America Protects Its Youngsters

PART 2: THE HOMOPHILES

5. Mattachine

6. The Daughters

7. Jousts with the Four Horsemen

PART 3: REVOLTS BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

8. Slivers of Space and Justice

9. Throwing Down the Gauntlet

10. The Homosexual American Citizen Takes the Government to Court

PART 4: EARTHQUAKE: THE STONEWALL YEARS

11. The Riots

12. Say It Proud—and Loud: New Gay Politics

13. Less Talk and More Action: The Gay Activists Alliance

14. A Parallel Revolution: Lesbian Feminists

PART 5: A PLACE AT THE TABLE

15. Dressing for Dinner

16. How Gays and Lesbians Stopped Being Crazies

17. The Culture War in Earnest

PART 6: HOW ANITA BRYANT ADVANCED GAY AND LESBIAN CIVIL RIGHTS

18. Enter, Anita

19. How to Lose a Battle

20. Grappling with Defeat

21. Learning How to Win

PART 7: ASHES AND PHOENIXES

22. Of Martyrs and Marches

23. The Plague

24. Family Values

PART 8: DEMANDING TO SERVE

25. New Gays and Lesbians Versus the Old Military

26. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Serve

27. Get ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Done!

PART 9: LGBT AMERICAN CITIZENS

28. How Lesbians and Gays Stopped Being Sex Criminals

29. The First Law in American History That Begins the Job of Protecting LGBT People

30. A Forty-Year War: The Struggle for Workplace Protection

PART 10: WHAT JUSTIFICATION COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE FOR DENYING HOMOSEXUALS THE BENEFITS OF MARRIAGE?

31. The Status That Everyone Understands as the Ultimate Expression of Love and Commitment

32. Getting It Right, and Wrong, in the West

33. The Evolution of a President and the Country

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

Photographs

Photo Credits

About Lillian Faderman

Notes

Index

For Phyllis, who is—and always has been—necessary to it all

PROLOGUE

On the morning of May 26, 1948, Professor E. K. Johnston was standing at the rostrum in a University of Missouri auditorium. The annual awards ceremony for the School of Journalism was in full swing. Best columnist, best sports writer, best feature writer—each award winner was called up to the stage, where Professor Johnston shook his hand and said kind and appropriate words as he bestowed a trophy of recognition. The professor had been on the University of Missouri faculty since 1924 and was now fifty years old, a man distinguished and comfortable in middle age, dressed formally in a light summer suit, spectacles balanced low on the bridge of his nose.

Professor Johnston had taken a place of honor on that stage because that academic year he’d served as acting dean of the School of Journalism. The elderly permanent dean, Frank Mott, had been on leave, and Professor Johnston was an apt choice as his temporary replacement: E. K. Johnston was a full professor, he was much loved and respected by students and colleagues alike,1 and he had a national reputation as a multiterm president of a professional fraternity for those working in the relatively new discipline of the science of newspaper advertising.2 Indeed, it was assumed by many at the University of Missouri that when the present dean retired, Professor Johnston would be named his permanent successor.

But as Professor Johnston was fulfilling his academic duties by shaking hands and wishing the aspiring young journalists continued success, he knew there was a warrant out for his arrest, issued by the county prosecutor.3 He suspected too that the charge against him was commission of sodomy. But for the moment, he wanted only to get through the awards ceremony—to fulfill his last duty of the academic year to the students in his charge—and he did.

When the ceremony was over, Professor Johnston drove himself downtown, walked into the county prosecutor’s office, and gave himself up. At his arraignment, he pleaded innocent. Thrown into the Boone County jail until he could raise bail, he spent two days behind bars.4

The county prosecutor, Howard Lang, had started the investigation six months earlier. There’d been a robbery, and a man was apprehended and brought in for questioning. It was he, Prosecutor Lang told the newspapers, who talked about a homosexual ring there in Columbia, Missouri, that carried on sex orgies. As happened often during police interrogations of homosexuals in the mid-twentieth century, police detectives grilled the robber until he named names. One of the names was Willie Coots, a thirty-nine-year-old gift shop employee. Coots was then brought in and was made to name more names. Each man that Willie Coots named was dragged in for questioning and grilled. A police department secretary took down in shorthand what each arrestee said, and she compiled a list of thirty names.5

Of all the men Coots named, the most interesting to the Columbia police, because of his prominence, was Professor E. K. Johnston. Coots confessed that he and the professor had lived together for ten years as lovers and for the last six years as friends. The police wanted more facts. Had he and Johnston held homosexual parties in their shared apartment? Yes, they had. More names; other homosexuals who’d had illegal congress with Johnston. Yes, he did remember some: just a few days earlier, there was a man named Warren Heathman. Heathman was a thirty-five-year-old World War II veteran who had fought overseas; he’d earned a master’s degree in agriculture from the University of Missouri and was now an instructor for the Veterans Administration’s farm training program.

Heathman could not be found at his home address, so the Columbia police sent out an all-points bulletin for his arrest. He was picked up by state highway patrolmen in Rolla, Missouri, about two hours away, and locked up overnight in Jefferson City’s Cole County Jail. In the morning, patrolmen shackled him and drove him to the jail in Columbia, and he too was grilled. This was serious business, they told him. Perjury is a felony for which he could be incarcerated for five years. Willie Coots had mentioned a big fish: a professor at the university. Did Heathman know E. K. Johnston? When had he last seen him? Where?

Heathman, disoriented and scared, did not take long to answer every question they threw at him. Yes, he and Johnston engaged in homosexual activities. Yes, on an average of every other week. Yes, usually in Johnston’s apartment. Yes, he’d been to homosexual parties not only in that same apartment but also at a cabin near Salem, Missouri. (Mad parties of a homosexual cabal, the newspapers would report.6) Just as Willie Coots had done, Heathman signed a statement implicating Johnston as the leader of the homosexual ring.

Heathman and Coots both waived their preliminary hearings; they did not want to drag out their ordeal. Because neither one was the supposed kingpin of the homosexual ring, their bail was set at $2,500 apiece, $1,000 lower than Johnston’s.7 The professor, however, was not as easily intimidated. He had gone himself to the police station and demanded to know why there was a warrant out for his arrest. When police detectives took him into a room to interrogate him, he knew his rights. He would say nothing to his inquisitors except I want to talk to my lawyer. He was permitted to call his attorney, Edwin Orr, who advised him not to sign any statement and not to waive his preliminary hearing.

From the Boone County Jail, he contacted his half brother in Kansas City, and a friend in Sedalia, Missouri, and borrowed money for the $3,500 bond.8 In their coverage of the story, local newspapers were sure to name both Howard Johnston, the brother, and Fred Hildebrandt, the friend, shaming them for having aided and abetted a homosexual.

Family newspapers within a thousand-mile radius of Columbia all seemed to pick up the story, which was covered by the wire services of the Associated Press as well as the United Press International. The local papers embellished their articles with sensational headlines. Missouri Professor Held for Sodomy: Termed Principal in Homosexual Ring was the Pottstown (PA) Mercury headline.9 The headline in Arkansas’s Hope Star was simply Homosexual, which was shocking enough all by itself in 1948.10

It was not until his temporary release from jail that Johnston learned that he’d been found guilty even before he was tried. In view of the nature and gravity of the charges that have been made against Professor E. K. Johnston, the president of the university, Frederick Middlebush, told reporters, he has been relieved of his duties as a member of the university.11 Hysteria spread. The superintendent of the State Highway Patrol, Colonel Hugh Waggoner, announced not only to the university’s board of curators but also to the media that Johnston was only the tip of the iceberg.12

The board of curators panicked. Allen McReynolds, its president, immediately called a press conference to promise the public, The board will take such action as it deems necessary to protect the interests of the university. McReynolds added defensively that homosexuals were a public problem, and one that ought to be solved.13 Missouri’s governor, Phil Donnelly, weighed in, assuring Missourians that he had ordered the president of the board of curators to confer with State Highway Patrol officials about the homosexuals they’d discovered and to make sure such people had no place on the university’s faculty or among the student body.14

On November 17 Johnston stood before Judge W. M. Dinwiddie of the Boone County Circuit Court. Johnston’s lawyer, Edwin Orr, had advised him that the prosecutor held in his hands multiple signed statements. He must throw himself at the mercy of the court. Johnston must have struggled to resign himself to this: How could he relinquish into perpetuity the image of the man he once was? How could he claim as his the character of a criminal? Orr promised that he would call witnesses who would talk about Johnston’s good character and plead for clemency. The witnesses would tell the judge there was no point in sending a man like Johnston to jail. The ex-professor was by now emotionally and physically exhausted. He’d lost his job, his good name, his beloved students, his entire career—even his pension. He was fifty years old. What would he live on for the rest of his life? He had no more fight left in him. And if he did not confess to the world of being guilty of sodomy and then throw himself at Judge Dinwiddie’s mercy, he would be locked in jail for who knew how many years to come.

Johnston pleaded guilty and did not open his mouth again for the rest of the trial. The principal witness for the defense was Dr. Edward Gildea, head of the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in Saint Louis. Asked whether E. K. Johnston would be a menace to society if he were placed on probation, the psychiatrist said no, "though in my judgment he is a homosexual." He was followed by a long line of character witnesses. Each confirmed that Johnston had been widely respected and liked; that a penitentiary sentence would not help him nor serve society; that he could be turned free without detriment to society.15

The pleas for clemency were not without effect. Judge Dinwiddie wouldn’t send the defendant to jail, he announced. He’d put him on probation for four years. Johnston must have felt a surge of relief, even joy. But the judge was not through. Johnston was required to post a $2,000 bond. It was his obligation to pay all court costs. Judge Dinwiddie ordered him to report regularly to Wayne Ballard, the state probation officer. Finally, Judge Dinwiddie concluded, Your order of probation includes your cessation of all homosexual practices.16

•  •  •

There’s a Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. It was erected in 1997 to honor the two million women who have served in the American military, past and present. It sits on the grand four-acre ceremonial entrance; and its elegant structure, with its lofty classical design and its arced ceiling made of glass tablets, is worthy of the solemn site. There’s also an auditorium at the Women’s Memorial, where ceremonies are held to recognize the outstanding achievements of female military personnel. In that auditorium, army colonel Tammy Smith was pinned with two stars: one on each epaulet, making official her promotion to brigadier general. A ceremony that celebrates a woman’s rise to the rank of general is certainly rare, though not unheard of: there’d already been about fifty women generals or admirals serving in the US military. But the auditorium of the Women’s Memorial had never yet seen quite such a ceremony as the one that took place on August 10, 2012.17

At four o’clock, as a soloist sang The Star Spangled Banner, Smith, a short, slight, bespectacled woman who’d once been a senior parachutist and an airplane jump master, marched onto the stage together with her commanding officer, Major General Jack Stultz. Media cameras rolled and clicked. In General Stultz’s ceremonial remarks he talked about why Smith had been promoted to her elevated position: she’d racked up a fruit salad of medals in her distinguished twenty-six years of service in the army, which included a stint in Afghanistan as chief of army reserve affairs. General Stultz praised the values she epitomized and her ability as a leader. She is, he said, a quiet professional who just knows how to come in and take over.

Then the general introduced the guests of honor: first Smith’s elderly father and then her spouse and her in-laws. Traditionally, the stars on a new general’s epaulets are pinned by the two individuals most meaningful to that person. Smith stood at attention while her father pinned on one side and her spouse pinned on the other. Her in-laws too had an official role in the ceremony: they were chosen to remove the colonel’s shoulder boards from Smith’s uniform and replace them with a general’s shoulder boards. Next, father and spouse unfurled a flag—red with a white star—which is to be flown wherever Smith will be stationed to announce that a general is present.

There was little about this traditional ceremony that was unique—except that the spouse, Tracey Hepner, was a woman. It was a brave act, not because Smith might be in danger of discharge or losing her new rank, but because never before in the entire history of the US military had it been done.

Smith had told General Stultz well in advance that she wanted her wife to be part of the pinning ceremony. He didn’t blink an eye, she recalled; nor did the Department of Defense. This is your story. It’s a good story. Don’t be afraid to tell it, DOD officials said in encouraging her to respond to media requests for interviews about the inclusion of her wife in her promotion ceremony. Tell them why it’s important to have Tracey pin your star. Tell them what it means to you.18

What it meant, General Smith told the media, was that finally, with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, she was able to feel full, authentic, and complete by no longer having to keep secret who she was. She had no desire to grandstand—to make political coming-out declarations. Her wife’s prominent role in the ceremony was Smith’s clear and simple statement that "this is my family." Since Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been overturned, sexual orientation is considered a private matter by the Department of Defense. It’s a private matter for General Smith as well—but, she said, participating with family in traditional ceremonies, such as the pinning ceremony, is both common and expected of a leader. By including her wife, she was doing no more and no less than what military leaders have always done at such ceremonies.

•  •  •

What long-fought battles, tragic losses, and hard-won triumphs have brought us as a country from the days when a much-loved and gifted professor could be disgraced, thrown in jail, and hounded out of his profession as soon as his private life was revealed, to the days when a military officer could marry the woman she loves in broad daylight and be promoted, in a very public ceremony, to the rank of general with her wife by her side? How does the amazing evolution in image and status of gays and lesbians, as well as bisexual and transgender people, affect all Americans? And what remains to be done before they will truly be first-class American citizens? These are the stories The Gay Revolution will tell.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHANGING TERMINOLOGY

To nineteenth-century sexologists such as Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis, men and women who were attracted sexually to the same sex, and those whose gender identity didn’t match their anatomical sex, were all sexual inverts. In the twentieth century, the sexologists’ conflation of sexual orientation and gender identity was reflected in popular culture. For instance, the protagonist of Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 novel, The Well of Loneliness, Stephen Gordon, who’d be considered transgender in our day, became the most famous fictional lesbian of the era.

Homosexual, another umbrella term coined by the sexologists in the nineteenth century, came into popular use in the twentieth century; it too made no distinctions, though in argot, all effeminate male homosexuals were called queens; masculine female homosexuals were called butches, regardless of the degree of their male gender identity. Midcentury civil rights organizations, wanting to take the emphasis off the sexual of homosexual, coined the term homophile.

Gay became an underground synonym for homosexual in the early twentieth century, encompassing men who were attracted to men, lesbians, people who’d later be called transgender, and bisexuals when they were acting homosexually. The first literary use of gay appeared in Gertrude Stein’s short story Miss Furr and Miss Skeene, written in 1908, about the tumultuous lesbian relationship between two of her acquaintances, Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire. When Stein published the story in Vanity Fair in 1922, few readers would have known the underground meaning of gay, though homosexuals active in the burgeoning subculture would have recognized that Stein’s story, which plays with the word gay throughout, was an in-joke. The Stonewall generation, which preferred to describe itself as gay, brought the term from the underground into popular consciousness in the 1970s.

About the same time, feminism prompted women who were sexually attracted to other women to distinguish themselves from male counterparts by bringing into popular use the term lesbian (from Lesbos, birthplace of Sappho). As the movement for civil rights grew in the 1980s, gay and lesbian became practically one word, which was also intended to imply transgender people.

The term transgender had been in occasional use since the 1970s; in the 1990s, queer was becoming the term of choice for many young people. In the late 1990s, the acronym LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) came into use, as did LGBTQ, though gay-and-lesbian remained the most frequent descriptor, and was meant to be inclusive into the twenty-first century.

With the growing visibility of transgender people and the increasing willingness of bisexuals to identify themselves, LGBT became a popular term by the second decade of the twenty-first century. Other groups, in demanding recognition, have stretched the acronym as far as LGBTQQIAAP (which also includes Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies, and Pansexual).

I’ve chosen to call this book The Gay Revolution because gay is still most widely understood as an umbrella term for a diverse community. However, in aiming for historical precision, I’ve tried to use the terms that were most current in each era I depict: whether homosexual, homophile, gay, lesbian, lesbian feminist, gay-and-lesbian, LGBT, and so on.

PART 1

SCAPEGOATS

Chapter 1

LAWBREAKERS AND LOONIES

HOMOSEXUALIST PSYCHOPATHIC INDIVIDUALS

Dr. Carleton Simon was an enlightened man. Though special deputy police commissioner for New York State since 1920, he opposed the death penalty, and he advocated the rehabilitation of criminals. He opened a psychiatric clinic to serve the mentally disturbed down-and-out of the Bowery; and he disputed the use of the water cure, a torture technique devised by the US Army to interrogate prisoners during the occupation of the Philippines in World War II. He was a star among law enforcement officials and the medical establishment, and among society’s upper crust, too.1

But Dr. Simon had his idiosyncrasies and prejudices. The bald, hulking doctor dabbled in phrenology. He assured his formidable audiences, including the New York Academy of Medicine and the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, that a criminal could be identified even before he committed a crime by a drooping eyelid or a hanging corner of the mouth.2 Simon was also an expert on race. Negro criminals, he opined, were dishonest, shiftless, and unreliable.3 His 1947 lecture to the International Association of Chiefs of Police on Homosexualists and Sex Crimes, a model of bigotry and flawed logic, passed for science that lay people accepted uncritically. The born-male homosexualists, he asserted, are easy to spot by their female characteristics: their walk, body contour, voice, mannerisms, texture of skin, and also their interest in housekeeping and theatrical productions. The women homosexualists are fickle, always eager to add to their list of conquests, and are extremely jealous of the object of their lusts.

Though Simon granted that some homosexualists live as decent members of society, many, he insisted, have psychopathic personalities, are indifferent to public opinion, and become predatory prostitutes. He extolled the state of Illinois’s treatment of homosexualist psychopathic individuals and recommended it be adopted everywhere. In Illinois, convicted homosexualists could be held as psychiatric prisoners until they recovered. If they recovered, they were then tried for having committed sodomy, which was punishable in that state by up to ten years in prison.4

Dr. Simon had influential counterparts all over the country, such as Dr. Arthur Lewis Miller, a Nebraska physician who was state health director. From that position of authority, Dr. Miller disseminated his theory about the homosexual’s cycles of uncontrolled desire, which were as regular as women’s menstrual cycles. Three or four days in each month, the homosexual’s instinct [for moral decency] breaks down, and he is driven into abnormal fields of sexual practice. Because the homosexual can’t control himself, the doctor told the Nebraska State Medical Association, science must step in. Large doses of sedatives or other treatment were what Dr. Miller recommended to help the homosexual escape from performing acts of homosexuality.5

When Dr. Miller was elected to the US Congress, he brought his ideas with him to Washington. As Congressman Miller, he authored a Sexual Psychopath Law for the District of Columbia.6 The Miller Act, as it was called, passed both the House and the Senate without difficulty. It made sodomy punishable by up to twenty years in prison. It also mandated that anyone accused of sodomy (defined as either anal or oral sex) had to be examined by a psychiatric team. The psychiatrists would determine whether the accused was a sexual psychopath—one who through repeated misconduct in sexual matters had shown himself to be unable to control his sexual impulses. If a man were picked up several times by the DC police for cruising in Lafayette Park, for instance, the psychiatric team could diagnose him to be a sexual psychopath, and he could be committed to the criminal ward of the District of Columbia’s St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital, even before being allowed his day in court. Under section 207 of the bill, he would remain there until the superintendent of St. Elizabeth’s finds that he has sufficiently recovered. The Senate Committee on the District of Columbia called the Miller Act a humane and practical approach to the problem of persons unable to control their sexual emotions.7

•  •  •

President Harry Truman signed Dr. Miller’s bill into law in June 1948. Five months earlier, Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male had been published. No one who was reasonably informed could have escaped knowing about Kinsey’s book because it was reviewed in every major newspaper and magazine in the country. Kinsey’s name became a household word. He and his team had interviewed 5,300 men, asking each of them over three hundred questions: the Kinsey Study found that 46 percent of American males admitted that as adults they’d reacted sexually to both males and females; 37 percent admitted to having had at least one homosexual experience as an adult; 10 percent said that as adults they’d been more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years.8

Even those who chose to believe that Kinsey’s numbers were inflated had to admit the likelihood that vast numbers of the male population were having sex with other men. But, in a stunning disconnect, lawmakers and the medical doctors who influenced them preferred to insist that people who engaged in such acts comprised a tiny distinct group, different from the rest of humanity. These homosexuals were lawbreakers and loonies, and they must be controlled.9

CONTROLLING THE LAWBREAKERS

About ten o’clock on the evening of September 4, 1959, Thomas Ferry, a strikingly well-built young man in tight jeans and a form-fitting T-shirt, walked into Tiger’s, a beer-and-wine bar on Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip. The routine wasn’t new to him; he’d been in Tiger’s five times in the last weeks. He sat down at the end of the long bar so that he could see the action, and he ordered a beer. Ten o’clock was early for a Friday night, and the crowd was thin. As Ferry sipped from his glass, he idly watched a shirtless man in his twenties, eyebrows penciled and eyes mascaraed, stand at the jukebox and feed it dimes, and then walk back to his seat with an exaggerated swishing of his hips. Ferry hadn’t taken more than a few sips of his beer before the bartender placed in front of him another full glass. The bartender nodded in the direction of a man sitting a few stools away. The man, in his thirties perhaps, was smiling at Ferry. Ferry had been in Tiger’s no more than ten minutes, but he knew he’d already caught his fish.

Ferry got up and walked over to where the man was sitting. Thanks for the beer, he said. Do I know you? No, but I’d like to know you, the man said. He introduced himself as Jim Cannon and offered his hand. Ferry shook hands warmly, and then pulled a business card from a back pocket and gave it to Cannon. The card said that the affable young man was Tom Ferry, a salesman. Well, pleased to meet you, Tom, Cannon said, putting the card in his wallet.

"Let me buy you a drink now," Ferry said, standing close to Jim Cannon’s bar stool.10

Two of Jim Cannon’s friends who’d just come back from San Francisco walked into Tiger’s and, spotting Cannon, came over to chat about their gay adventures up north. Ferry stood there patiently, listening. Why don’t you sit down, Cannon suggested, and Ferry took the stool next to him. In the dark of the bar, Cannon, still talking with his friends, put a hand on Ferry’s knee. Ferry sat there. Cannon squeezed his thigh, stroked his pubic area, and Ferry still didn’t move away.

After Cannon’s friends went off to find a table, Ferry said casually, Well, it’s too dead in here for me. I think I’ll leave. Do you want to go? My car’s across the street.

Yeah, swell! Cannon said, flattered by the buff younger man’s willingness. They left and crossed the street together. Officer Martin Yturralde, who was waiting in the unmarked car, got out to witness Thomas Ferry flash his officer’s badge at James Cannon, pull out his handcuffs, and make the arrest. Officers Ferry and Yturralde deposited the stunned Cannon into the back of the car and drove him to the Hollywood police station, where he was asked to take out his wallet and show his identification. Officer Ferry plucked his salesman card from Cannon’s wallet because he knew he’d be using it again.11 James Cannon was charged under Penal Code 647.5: Vag-lewd, which covered vagrancy as well as lewd and lascivious conduct.

Ferry’s report was added to the record the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control had been building for months—reports of dozens of visits to Tiger’s by undercover agents and officers. After the deputy attorney general of California examined their testimonies, he affirmed the ABC’s recommendation. The bar’s license was revoked.12

•  •  •

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control had actually been created because of homosexuals. Before 1955, there was only an Alcoholic Beverage Commission, under the Board of Equalization. In 1951 the California Legislature authorized and pledged to finance a four-year study on Sexual Psychopath Legislation in twenty-three states and the District of Columbia.13 Four years later, horrified (as they’d expected to be) by what the study told about homosexuals and their victims, the legislators passed a constitutional amendment that created a Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and added a section to the Business and Professions Code that said that a liquor license could be revoked if a place was a resort where sexual perverts congregated.14

The newly created ABC was charged with maintaining public safety in establishments that served alcohol—and homosexuality, the legislature and most of America agreed, was intensely injurious to the public. Undercover agents and vice squad police were sent out on fishing expeditions, to find any evidence that the ABC could use to close the doors of homosexual bars. In San Francisco, by the late 1950s, there were so many undercover officers and agents that some nights they made up 25 percent of the people in the bar. For several months in 1959, for instance, agents were sent to a small, sedate bar on Geary Street, the Criterion Lounge. According to the hearing transcript of the agents’ testimony, one evening there were sixteen patrons and four undercover officers in the bar—each officer waiting for a patron to do something lewd to him.15

•  •  •

Lesbians were less likely than homosexual men to make a sexual move on a stranger after a brief conversation, but women agents and undercover officers were sent into lesbian bars as spies.16 Almost as soon as the Alcoholic Beverage Control was established in 1955, vice squad officer Marge Gwinn was sent with another undercover policewoman, Helen Davis, to do surveillance on Pearl’s, a lesbian bar that catered mostly to Latinas, for whom the place was like a social club. Gwinn passing for butch in boy’s pants and short pomaded hair, and Davis passing for her femme, hit pay dirt after only a few nights. Lorinda Pereira, a young woman in a dress and high heels, plopped herself down on the lap of short-haired Dorothy Gardner, who was decked out in a man’s shirt and fly-front trousers. Gardner petted Pereira’s leg and then rested her hand somewhere near Pereira’s pubic area—and Officers Gwinn and Davis quietly summoned their Oakland Police Department colleagues for a 1:30 a.m. raid. With a nod to the raiding police, the two officers identified the two women whose behavior was injurious to public welfare and morals. Pereira and Gardner were the first to be taken out to the paddy wagon. At the station, they were charged under Penal Code 647.5, vag-lewds, and were given suspended sentences of thirty days. Their misconduct was the heart of the ABC case to revoke Pearl Kershaw’s liquor license and shut the bar down.17

At a time when bars were the only public place where homosexuals could congregate, the loss of any gay bar was no small thing. Yet there was almost no public protest among gay bar-goers when Pearl’s was lost; nor when the North Coastal Area administrator of the ABC, Sidney Feinberg, declared a vigorous campaign to revoke the licenses of all gay establishments in the region. Feinberg, an imposing figure with a booming voice,18 announced publicly that he’d put a dozen undercover agents to work, gathering evidence.19 But to protest, homosexuals would have had to admit they were part of a group called perverts and psychopaths. Everywhere, homosexual anger was tamped down by shame and fear.20

•  •  •

If you let your homosexuality show, the streets were even more unsafe than the bars. George Barrett was a police officer with New York’s Sixteenth Precinct. Germs, degenerates, and perverts he called the homosexuals and other lawbreakers he ran into on his beat around Times Square, an area he dubbed the sewer. Barrett admitted to being obsessed with cleaning up the sewer and getting rid of the germs. His language, and his looks too, were a caricature of the hard-boiled film noir cop: If I can’t get the best of a guy with punches, I’ll kick him, and if he’s a better kicker than I am, I’ll go with the stick or the jack, and if I have to, I’ll use my gun, he told James Mills, a reporter for Life magazine in 1965. Mills described him in a long, illustrated feature article as having eyes as cold as gun metal and a jaw as hard and square as a brick. Barrett liked the description. My wife says I got a mean look too, he boasted. Most nights, Barrett roamed the area between Forty-Third and Forty-Fifth Streets, looking to bust homosexual prostitutes and their clients. He relished his work so much that he invited Mills to come along and watch the perverts with him.

These animals, I’ll eat them up! he told the reporter, who shadowed him up and down the streets. Barrett pointed out a group of five women standing together in a doorway: prostitutes and heroin addicts, all of them lesbians, he snarled. On a side street off Broadway, Barrett stopped when he saw a knot of six young men, two of them in a heated altercation. Are you males? he growled, though he knew they were. Yes, they said, startled by the sudden appearance of a cop. Are you homosexual? Yes, they admitted. Well, you germs walk up this street to Broadway and get lost. Don’t come back. To the one who was the most aggressive, a black man, Barrett said, I’m going to walk you around the corner to the subway, and you’re going to run down that hole and get out of here, and if you ever come back, I’m going to drill you right between the eyes, you understand that?

Even reporter James Mills was taken aback at Officer Barrett’s violent threat to the young man. Yeah, I was rough on him, Barrett agreed. But I won’t be hearing from his lawyers because the guy is an admitted homosexual.21 Not one of Life’s millions of readers wrote to express their disapproval.22

CONTROLLING THE LOONIES

Poor or well-off; black, brown, or white; male or female—homosexuals were criminals or crazies or both. Vice squad officers Grimm and Beaudry spent the summer of 1962 cruising around the streets of downtown San Diego, protecting young sailors stationed at the naval base from the pitfalls of vice during their R & R. On the afternoon of July 1, they’d gotten a complaint, they said later, that two Negro males were extorting money from sailors by promising to hook them up with a female prostitute. At six o’clock the officers spotted a black man, Eldridge Rhodes, who fit the description of one of the supposed pimps. He was walking on Fifth and Market Streets in the company of Thomas Earl, a young white man who, though dressed in civvies, might be a sailor. Grimm and Beaudry parked their police car and tailed the two on foot for a block and a half, to one of the shabby downtown hotels. The plainclothes officers lingered in the doorway and saw the two men take the stairs up to a room on the second floor. The officers flashed their badges to the unnerved desk clerk and got the men’s room number.

The door to room 214 was closed, but through an open transom Officers Grimm and Beaudry heard a bed squeaking and kissing-type noises. Grimm discovered that the door didn’t fit tightly against the door frame, and there was a gap in the molding. Peering in, he could see the two men sitting on a bed, naked, embracing and kissing. When the men moved out of Grimm’s sight line, Beaudry gave him a boost so he could peer through the transom for a better view. Oral copulation.

Beaudry, too heavy for a boost, rushed back downstairs to the desk clerk and demanded a stool; he needed to confirm what Grimm had seen.23

Thomas Earl and Eldridge Rhodes were tried in 1963, a decade and a half since Drs. Simon and Miller had called for the psychiatric institutionalization of those found guilty of homosexual crimes. By now in many states, facilities had been built and mechanisms put in place. In California, there was Atascadero State Hospital, constructed in 1954 at the cost to taxpayers of over $10 million (almost $100 million in today’s money). Atascadero was a maximum-security psychiatric prison on the central coast where mentally disordered male lawbreakers from all over California were incarcerated. Inmates were treated at Atascadero by a variety of methods, including electroconvulsive therapy, lobotomy, sterilization, and hormone injections. Anectine was used often for behavior modification. It was a muscle relaxant, which gave the person to whom it was administered the sensation of choking or drowning, while he received the message from the doctor that if he didn’t change his behavior he would die.24

Earl and Rhodes were found guilty of violating Penal Code section 288a, which made oral copulation a crime in California that was punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.25 A district court sent them to Atascadero for an indeterminate period. Thomas Earl fought to get a retrial on the grounds that Officers Grimm and Beaudry did not have a warrant when they spied on him and Rhodes and broke into their hotel room. An appeals court ruled that looking through a gap in a door and listening to noises that came through a transom did not violate legal procedures, and once the officers saw what they saw, they were right to break into the room.26

•  •  •

Sally Taft Duplaix27 was a sophomore in 1956 at Smith, the rich-girl’s college. Classy all-American girl looks, stylish, and smart too, Sally had even been valedictorian at her posh high school. She seemed to fit perfectly into the Smith environment, until another student reported to the dean that she’d caught Sally and her roommate in flagrante delicto. Though wealthy whites, especially females, didn’t generally get arrested and committed to state hospitals for being homosexual, as did people like Thomas Earl and Eldridge Rhodes, they weren’t unscathed by the widespread assumption that homosexuality was a sickness and needed curing. A few years earlier, in 1952, that assumption had been made official in the American Psychiatric Association’s first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatrist’s bible. Homosexuality was pathological behavior, the DSM stated. Sally Duplaix was sent to the Smith College doctor, who informed her parents that they must put their daughter under a psychiatrist’s care.28

Duplaix’s parents weren’t uneducated, but they knew no more about homosexuality than did most other straight people at midcentury. Their knowledge on the subject came mostly from popular media—magazines such as the widely read Collier’s, which called homosexuality the biggest taboo, and associated it with sexual maladjustment and sex crimes that twist the lives of tens of thousands of people into patterns that are as pitiful as they are ugly.29 A flood of books and popular articles by psychoanalysts such as Irving Bieber, Charles Socarides, and Edmund Bergler promised that rescue was possible. With enough psychoanalysis (and the money to pay for it) homosexuals could be transformed into heterosexuals. Duplaix’s parents found a psychoanalyst for her in Manhattan, and five days a week she was to take the train in from the suburbs in order to be cured.30

Duplaix showed up dutifully, but she was uninterested and uncooperative, the doctor said. He told her parents she’d do better in a residential facility. He recommended Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut, a place that looked like a five-star hotel on a country estate. As well off as Duplaix’s parents were, they had to take out a second mortgage on their home to afford the treatment. The facility specialized in super-rich alcoholics who came to dry out, but the doctor thought Duplaix would benefit from the multihour seven-day-a-week regimen of private and group therapy. She didn’t. She refused to stop saying that she was a homosexual and was not ashamed. The Silver Hill staff recommended that she be sent to a private mental hospital, the Elmcrest Psychiatric Institute in Portland, Connecticut.

There Duplaix was heavily medicated. She received both insulin-shock and electroshock treatments. She was told that if she didn’t behave, she’d be transferred to Littleton, the state asylum in the next town, which was far worse. She’d heard that lobotomies were sometimes performed to cure people of homosexuality, and she feared she’d be lobotomized.31 Little Miss Spoiled in the Snake Pit, she later said of her helplessness and dread at Elmcrest.

One evening Duplaix managed to escape, running through the autumn fields in search of a pay phone. She found one in a café not far from the hospital. She wanted to call her parents and beg them to get her out of Elmcrest. But the café was the first place the Elmcrest attendants looked for her. Before she could tell the telephone operator she wished to make a collect call, the attendants had bundled her into the hospital van and brought her back. From that point on, she was allowed to dress only in nightgown, bathrobe, and slippers, to assure she wouldn’t attempt another escape.

In December 1956, after five months of shock treatments and heavy medication, Duplaix was released to her parents, who again put her in psychoanalysis. She died in July 2012, at the age of seventy-six, still a lesbian.

The malevolent monsters of the ‘mental health’ establishment, she’d called the psychiatrists who treated her. But she’d overcome her anger toward her parents for throwing her to the monsters by telling herself that was what loving parents with some money and some sophistication did in the 1950s. It was no better and no worse, she theorized, than what poor or unenlightened parents did: they threw their homosexual children out into the streets.32

Chapter 2

AMERICA HUNTS FOR WITCHES

SCANDAL ON A TRAIN

On September 15, 1940, William Bankhead died. He was Speaker of the US House of Representatives and father of movie star Tallulah. After a memorial service in Washington, Bankhead’s body was shipped to Jasper, Alabama, to be buried in his family’s plot. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered his entire cabinet to come with him to the burial. By thus honoring a southern politician Roosevelt was hoping to make a peace offering to the conservative Southern Democrats who were furious because he’d recently chosen as his running mate in the upcoming election the Left-leaning Henry Wallace. But on the presidential train returning to the capital, an incident occurred that would be distressing in the extreme to FDR.

The president’s security men learned of it shortly after it happened, but they kept it secret from him. He heard about it anyway, directly from the Federal Bureau of Investigation head J. Edgar Hoover, and he worried. If the public learned of the incident, his chances of being reelected could be seriously damaged. No word of it leaked before the election seven weeks later, and FDR won an unprecedented third term. But the incident on the train triggered huge repercussions for decades after.

Secretary of State Cordell Hull had been unable to attend Bankhead’s burial because he was ill, but the undersecretary had been sent in his stead. Sumner Welles was Harvard-educated and the scion of an aristocratic family that included a senator, two governors, a fabulously wealthy Astor, and even a Roosevelt. He was a tall, slender, patrician-looking man who sported Bond St. suits, silver-headed walking sticks, and a neatly trimmed moustache. He’d married appropriately (three times) and had two sons. He’d entered the US Foreign Service on the advice of FDR, at whose 1905 wedding Welles, then a twelve-year-old in short pants, had been a page. Early in his career, he negotiated protections for American investors in the Dominican Republic and he made peace among warring factions in Honduras. So it was not surprising that when Roosevelt became president, he named his old friend and distant relative to be ambassador to Cuba. When a feared socialist revolution was averted because the dictatorial Cuban president, Gerardo Machado, was persuaded to step down, Welles got the credit.1

That same year, 1933, Roosevelt nominated Welles to be undersecretary of state, and he easily won congressional approval. A short while later, he acted as the architect of the US–Latin American Good Neighbor Policy, which pledged that the United States would cease intervening in Latin American affairs but also strengthened lucrative trade agreements between the continents. By now it was widely agreed that Sumner Welles had a golden diplomatic touch, and it was assumed that when the perennially ailing secretary of state, Cordell Hull, retired, Welles would succeed him.2

On the night of September 17, 1940, on the presidential train back to Washington after Bankhead’s interment, Sumner Welles had joined Henry Wallace and several other top Roosevelt men for dinner in the dining car. Drinking whiskey after whiskey to unwind from the long, hot day, Welles was more than a little tipsy when he staggered back to his sleeping compartment. He did not sleep. About four o’clock he rang for a porter. John Stone, a black man who was the senior Pullman porter on the train, answered the ring. Welles offered him money for sex. Stone politely turned him down and retreated. But the very drunk Welles would not stop ringing the buzzer that led from his room to the porters’ quarters. Another porter finally came, and Welles made a move on him too and was refused. Again Welles rang the buzzer, and the fiasco was repeated with a third porter. In the porters’ quarters, the men shared their stories, and then the three went together to report the incidents to the conductor, who informed the Secret Service men on board.3

The following spring, William Bullitt, a presidential advisor to FDR, showed up at the Oval Office brandishing a sheaf of documents. They were about the Pullman porter affair. He wanted the president to read them. Bullitt had found out about the scandal because one of the porters had filed a complaint with the Southern Railway Company that was headquartered in Bullitt’s hometown of Philadelphia. The judge who received the documents supposedly implored Bullitt on his deathbed to make the story public.4

William Bullitt, a contentious and darkly brooding man, had several reasons for animosity to Undersecretary Welles. As a diplomat, Bullitt had negotiated relations between the United States and the Bolshevik regime, he’d been the first US ambassador to the Soviet Union and the ambassador to France, and he’d been Cordell Hull’s special assistant—all of which had given him high hopes that he might someday be the one to succeed Hull as secretary of state. And then Sumner Welles became the man of the hour and dashed his dreams. But Bullitt had even more personal reasons to be resentful of Welles. Homosexuals had ruined his life. Ten years earlier, he’d learned that his wife, Louise Bryant, was having a lesbian affair with the English sculptor Gwen Le Gallienne. Bullitt and Bryant had a bitter divorce. He’d had to sue for custody of their daughter so the girl wouldn’t be contaminated by bad and dangerous company.5 And now the State Department, in which he’d had a long proprietary interest, was in very bad and dangerous company.

Roosevelt read the first page of what Bullitt handed him, said, I know about this already, and handed back the documents.

Bullitt, puzzled that FDR wasn’t more upset, blurted, But Welles’s actions open the way to criminal charges . . . This could menace the presidency by provoking a public scandal. He will be your Achilles heel.

Roosevelt answered that he was confident that no newspaper would publish anything about the affair,6 and he’d make sure there’d be no criminal charges. At J. Edgar Hoover’s suggestion, he’d already assigned a bodyguard to go around with Welles and prevent him from propositioning any more men.7

Mr. President, you’re thinking of asking Americans to die in a crusade for all that’s decent in human life, Bullitt kept on. You can’t have among the leaders of that crusade a criminal like Welles. Bullitt’s list of reasons why the president must get rid of Sumner Welles went on and on. FDR, appalled and sickened, would hear no more. He ended the meeting. He canceled the rest of his appointments for that day and went back to the presidential bedroom to lie down.8

Bullitt found a more open ear in the secretary of state. Cordell Hull was resentful of Sumner Welles, who shared blue bloodlines and a deep friendship with the president and seemed always to be favored by him. Since FDR would not act himself to put Welles down, Hull ordered the very-willing Bullitt to pass the Pullman porter documents on to Republican senator Owen Brewster of Maine. Brewster, an adversary of FDR’s, did what Hull and Bullitt had hoped he would: he threatened the president with a senatorial inquiry unless Welles was fired.9 The president, contemplating a run for a fourth term, knew his enemies would revel in the enormous scandal.

As soon as Sumner Welles, ever a faithful friend to the president, understood what was at stake, he didn’t have to be asked to turn in his resignation.10

But FDR had a chance to vent his rage on William Bullitt. Sometime later, when the former ambassador to France was hoping to make a run for the job of mayor of Philadelphia, he asked for the president’s endorsement. FDR famously responded to the outrageously tone-deaf request, If I were the angel Gabriel, and you and Sumner Welles should come before me seeking admission into the Gates of Heaven, do you know what I’d say? I would say, ‘Bill Bullitt, you have defamed the name of a man who toiled for his fellow man, and you can go to hell.’ And that’s what I tell you to do now!11 To the Democratic leaders in Philadelphia, Roosevelt said, Cut his throat!12 Bullitt lost the mayoral race by a wide margin.

But satisfying as FDR’s rage-fest must have felt to him, the Sumner Welles incident with the Pullman porters became the ripple that began the tidal wave of Washington’s homosexual witch hunts.

KEEPING OUR NATION SAFE

Vice President Harry Truman assumed the presidency after FDR’s death in April 1945. He inherited the virulent animosity of the Right and their smear campaigns about creeping socialism from which Roosevelt had suffered. Truman realized that if he hoped to be elected in 1948, he would have to show himself to be as good a Cold War Warrior as any conservative Republican or Southern Democrat. To that end, on March 21, 1947, he signed Executive Order 9835, the Federal Employee Loyalty Program, which established review boards to work within all government agencies in order to fire any employee or not hire any job applicant suspected of being in any way disloyal to the United States.

John Peurifoy had been named assistant to the undersecretary of state the year before Truman signed Executive Order 9835. Unlike many State Department officials whose youths had been spent at Groton and Harvard (such as the effete Sumner Welles), Peurifoy had been a South Carolina farm boy. He prided himself on being a self-made man. Peurifoy had had to work as a night cashier in a restaurant to support himself when he was young, but his dreams were always grandiose. He would someday be the president of the United States, he’d announced in his high school yearbook.13 When Peurifoy first came to Washington, he’d spent his days toiling as an elevator operator in the US Senate Building and his evenings sitting in college classes. In 1938, at the age of thirty-one, he landed a job at the State Department as a $2,000-a-year clerk, but a few years later he’d quadrupled his salary and was raring for further advancement.

The wildly ambitious Peurifoy, given to wearing flamboyant neckties that a Saturday Evening Post reporter described as capable of blinding a prairie dog at fifty paces,14 ostensibly saw his main chance in the galloping postwar paranoia about threats to American safety, security, and normalcy. A clerk during the Sumner Welles debacle, he remembered the panic at State that homosexuals could be blackmailed by foreign powers to give up state secrets—and how FDR had virtually tied Cordell Hull’s hands. Now Peurifoy blasted the State Department’s Division of Security and Investigations for still being dangerously lax. He asked for and got permission from Secretary George Marshall to do what should have been done years ago: deal in a direct and forthright manner with the problem of homosexuality among State Department employees.15 Truman’s 1947 executive order gave Peurifoy the firepower he needed.

Peurifoy started an investigation of an unmarried, dandified State Department employee who, scuttlebutt said, had proclivities like those of Sumner Welles. Like the interrogation of Willie Coots in Columbia, Missouri, that led to the downfall of Professor E. K. Johnston and many more Columbia homosexuals, the first homosexual grilled was forced to cough up the names of all the homosexual employees he knew, and those were forced to cough up the names of all whom they knew.16 Peurifoy ordered that two investigators on the staff of the Security Division be assigned full-time to do nothing but detect homosexual employees and make thorough and comprehensive inquiry into their lives.

A couple of years later, Secretary of State George Marshall elevated John Peurifoy to the position of undersecretary of state for administration, the third-ranking position in the entire department. He was given complete jurisdiction over hirings, firings, and the elimination of Communists and other dubious characters from State.17 He excelled in his duties, especially with regard to dubious characters. If a male applicant was unmarried or in the least effeminate, Peurifoy ordered that his history be scrutinized—friends, coworkers, employers, all would get visits from State Department investigators trained in finding out whether the applicant was a pervert. Ninety-one employees were soon fired. The Man Who Runs the State Department, the Saturday Evening Post called Peurifoy in 1949, and observed that he was looked upon with favor, even affection, by both Republicans and Democrats.18

•  •  •

February 1950: Dean Acheson, who had succeeded George Marshall as secretary of state, was asked to appear before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. He was accompanied by John Peurifoy as his hiring-and-firing man. Acheson thought he’d been invited to speak in support of his department’s request for appropriations. But instead, he was ambushed. For two hours, Republican senators William Knowland, Styles Bridges, and Homer Ferguson—sworn foes of President Truman and Truman’s appointees—rancorously accused Acheson of tolerating disloyalty because he wasn’t quick enough to condemn his friend Alger Hiss as a Communist spy.19

Would a friend of a person who is a member of a Communist front be a security risk? Bridges asked, impugning Acheson’s loyalty. Would a person known to associate with members of a Communist front be a security risk? Bridges kept on, intending to humiliate the now seething Acheson. The senators demanded Acheson turn over the State Department’s loyalty files to their crony Senator Joseph McCarthy, who’d grabbed headlines a few weeks earlier when, speaking to the Republican Women’s Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, he waved a piece of paper in the air and shouted, I have here in my hand a list of two hundred five Communists who are still working for the State Department!20

John Peurifoy, hoping to give his besieged boss a respite, asked to speak and offered a distracting token. The State Department had, in fact, already gotten rid of 203 people who seemed to be security risks, he told the senators. Ninety-one of them were in the shady category, mostly homosexuals.21

It created a conflagration. Ninety-one homosexuals in the State Department. Who had hired them, and how many more were there? And where else in government were they? Two Senate Appropriations Subcommittee members immediately volunteered to do a preliminary study: Republican Kenneth Wherry and Southern Democrat Lister Hill. They would hold closed hearings on the extent of the problem of homosexuals on US government payrolls. We have a chance for an educational job about sexual deviations comparable to what the Surgeon General’s Office has done on venereal disease, Hill told the press. Homosexuality needed eradicating no less than syphilis.22

Wherry and Hill interviewed more than a score of government officials about homosexuals, or moral weaklings as they were alternately dubbed in Wherry’s report to the Appropriations Subcommittee.23 The star of their interviews was tough, old Lt. Roy E. Blick, as Newsweek called him24—an eighteen-year veteran of the DC police department, a true believer in the evils of perversion, whose Pervert Elimination Squad employed four men to do nothing but detect and arrest homosexuals.

Out of your eighteen years’ experience, how many homosexuals do you think there are in the District of Columbia? Wherry asked the lieutenant.

There are 3,750 perverts employed by government agencies, Lieutenant Blick declared confidently—though he later admitted that his precise figure was really a quick guess,25 based on his own judgment that there were about 5,000 homosexuals in DC and about 75 percent of them worked for the government.26 In the hysterical popular press, Blick’s figure grew exponentially: There are at least 6,000 homosexuals on the government payroll, the book Washington Confidential announced, and these comprise only a fraction of the total of their kind in the city.27 The New York Post didn’t settle for guesstimates: the Office of Naval Intelligence had the exact number, the Post announced: 7,859.28

Is a homosexual, because he is a moral pervert, one that is an easy prey for blackmail? Senator Wherry prodded Lieutenant Blick to expound on the dangers homosexuals posed to national security.

The lieutenant cooperated. I would say that anything I want from an individual who is a pervert, I could get, he answered. I could get it quicker by the approach of exposing him than I could by offering him money.

With such evidence in hand, Senator Wherry declared breathlessly to the Appropriations Subcommittee that the guarding of government secrets upon which the life of our Republic may depend is lax. This sordid situation will shock the American people when they are given these facts!29

Members of the subcommittee read Wherry’s report and concurred. They wasted no time in making a unanimous recommendation to the Senate. The entire executive branch of government must be thoroughly investigated for homosexuals—and a system must be put in place so that if an employee is fired from his job because he is homosexual, he won’t be able to turn around and find work in another government agency; he will be forever debarred from all federal jobs.30

The Senate agreed with Appropriations. A new Senate subcommittee was formed, with Clyde Hoey of North Carolina as its head. Republican senator Margaret Chase Smith, the only woman in the Senate, would serve as well. Pervert Inquiry Ordered, the New York Times announced to the public.31

Members of the House of Representatives

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  • An overview of gay and lesbian history from the 1950s until the 2010s, expertly and exhaustively cataloging major milestones and hurdles. Lambda Literary Award winner Lillian Faderman writes about decades worth of history with a novelist's flair.

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  • (5/5)
    A fantastic completion of the stories of ordinary and extraordinary activists that transformed our society. Wonderfully composed into brief chapters and sections that draw you into the period and move you along into the next step of the revolution.